31st March, 2017

This month The Carter Company were delighted to announce the launch of our first ever Scottish walking holiday, spanning The West Highland Way, and offering what is truly one of the most wondrous walks in the world, taking in lochs, glens, moors, mountains and more. In celebration of the newest addition to our range of tours in the awe-inspiring country, we've picked five of Scotland's most marvellous hidden gems, spanning food, flowers and a favourite pub, as well as magical wild swimming in so-called Fairy Pools (pictured above) and dolphin spotting opportunities – all of which, you'll be pleased to hear, can be factored around one or more of our bonnie holidays.

1 Mhor Food Company

If you’re looking to feast on delicious food while staying in an extraordinary location, the Mhor Food Company – nestled in the beautiful, thistle-strewn Braes of Balquhidder – is the place for you. The family run food and hospitality business comprises a cosy café that serves its organically farmed produce, a bakery that bakes fresh bread daily, and two hotels, the Mhor 84 Motel and Monachyle Mhor, a pink farmhouse turned boutique hotel situated in splendid 2000-acre grounds. The hotel – one stop on our 'West Highland Way' walking tour – boasts a world-class restaurant that serves locally sourced meat and fish. While for those in search of a unique “glamping” experience, there’s a converted 1950s showman's wagon and a cabin constructed from found objects, both situated in the surrounding parkland.

2 Benmore Botanic Garden

For garden lovers, a trip to this stunning, mountainside garden, a few miles south of the lowest point of The Trossachs National Park, will reveal Scotland's most marvellous collection of flowering trees and shrubs. Approach via an avenue of giant sierra redwoods, planted in 1862; potter among glorious displays of rhododendrons and azaleas; peep inside the picturesque Puck’s Hut, built in 1928 in memory of Sir Isaac Bayley Balfour and topped by a miniature bronze sculpture of the mischievous Shakespearean character; and discover the recently restored Victorian fernery tucked into a shaded cleft in the hillside. A trip to this Scottish arcadia can be arranged around our 'Lochs and glens to Edinburgh' cycling tour.

3 The Sheep Heid, Edinburgh

No visit to Edinburgh is complete without a wander up Arthur’s Seat, the ancient volcano, which, at 251 metres above sea level, forms the highest point of Holyrood Park, offering a fantastic view across the capital. But every good walk requires a good lunch, and Scotland’s unpredictable, often windy weather doesn’t always guarantee a peaceful picnic. Which is why The Sheep Heid, located in the small village of Duddingston, just a ten minute walk from the hilltop, is our top insider tip. It is the oldest pub in Edinburgh, built in 1360, and has offered rest and refreshment to monarchs and poets alike. Expect a roaring fire, delicious pies, tasty fish and chips, local ale and a two-lane skittle alley. Why not make a literary trip of it, and wend your way to Edinburgh via our ‘In the footsteps of famous writers’ walking tour?

4 Dolphin spotting at The Moray Firth

The Scottish highlands offer hidden gems at every turn, from historic towns to tiny fishing hamlets, mountain ranges to deserted lochs and gorgeous offshore islands, but you wouldn’t necessarily associate them with dolphins. However, the Moray Firth – an idyllic inlet on the east coast, and the starting point of our 'The Highlands coast to coast' cycling tour – is one of the best places in the UK to encounter these majestic creatures. The dolphins hunt for salmon in spring and summer, which is the optimum time to spot them – either from the land or by boat. Whales.org offers a comprehensive guide to help ensure you aren’t disappointed in your quest.

5 Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye

These crystal clear, turquoise pools, situated at the foot of the Black Cuillin Mountains in the west of Skye, number among Scotland’s most magical natural wonders. Reaching them requires a 2.4-kilometre hike through the Glen Brittle forest but the reward is a chance to wallow in some of the most pristine swimming holes in the world. (NB. A wetsuit may be required, however, as they’re not the warmest!) For those less beguiled by wild swimming, the sparkling waterfalls and atmospheric moors won’t fail to sooth and restore. Visit Skye, and factor in the Fairy Pools, on our 'Highlands and Hebrides' cycling holiday.